Ben Stiller, Greenberg

Wilson Webb/Focus Features

Review in a Hurry: Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Margot at the Wedding) has directed the quintessential mid-life crisis movie for the indie set. Project all your insecurities, fears, and life disappointments on Ben Stiller and try to ignore the hyper-hipster touches that nearly tarnish Greenberg.

The Bigger Picture: Approaching midlife can cause one to sit back and reflect. Or, have a nervous breakdown. Roger Greenberg (Stiller) is in his early 40s, a "grown up," to be sure, yet aimless and unsettled. He works steadily as a carpenter and lives in that greatest of all cities, Manhattan, but his youthful rock-star dreams never came to fruition.

We meet him after he's released from a psychiatric hospital, back home in Los Angeles to housesit for his far more successful brother. He's surly, snarky, and anxious as he faces old demons.

Florence (Greta Gerwig) is his brother's family's personal assistant (very L.A., no?) and she and Roger become ensnared in a bumpy, on-and-off-again relationship. Florence is that type of hipster naïf so common in indie movies, a twee, deliberately awkward cliché, complete with ambling gait and lazy, whispery drawl. It's annoying, except that she has a very big heart underneath those vintage cardigans. She's so easy to love that even cynical Roger can't help but be moved by her.

She's yin to Roger's yang, one of the many flipsides that fill Greenberg: New York vs. Los Angeles, young vs. old, grownup vs. immature, bitter vs. sweet.

And the script is definitely more bitter than sweet.

The clashes between Roger and his old friends and bandmates shine a light on the fact that you either have to accept your lost dreams, or fight for them all over again, no matter how much your knees ache or your joints creak.

At times the movie wanders in circles, too cool for relatively brisk pacing. Fortunately, Stiller's insightful performance propels his character forward, if not the film itself.

The 180—a Second Opinion: It's pretty obvious that Stiller's comic charm keeps the movie from taking itself too seriously. The direction borders a bit on pretentiousness, and while sentimentality would have weighed down the action, a little more heart would have hit home with audiences.


Catch up on what films are coming out in our Movies From the Future! gallery!

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